Spring marks the start of our national deer impacts survey (Nearest Neighbour) which we have undertaken for Forest Enterprise Scotland since 2008. Our survey team’s travel across Scotland, visiting all the forest re-stocking coupes planted the previous year, to measure the level of deer impact that has accumulated over the previous winter. In a typical year there are ~ 400 sites to visit which means that around 50,000 individual trees will be measured.
The surveyors sample trees across each re-stock site in a grid pattern, looking at leader damage on planted trees of each species present. Whilst we are there we also take a look for pine weevil damage and keep an eye out for other herbivore impacts (e.g. rabbits) – useful information for the forester to have.
It is always fascinating to chart the progress of these sites from year-to-year, as it provides a useful insight into trends in deer numbers nationally – this, in turn, helps identify whether changes to the national cull level are required.